6

War wounds

I have a scar on my right hand. Well, my right wrist actually. It is a pretty nasty scar and it pretty much looks like I slashed my wrist. I did not, but it looks like that.

Over the years, the scar has been a great conversation starter. People who accidentally see it cannot help but question how I got it.  It is also pretty prominently placed and there is no way I can hide it and so the chances of people seeing it is pretty darn high. I think there is something magnetic about the scar cause one look at it and people want to know how I got it.

Even, seemingly less intrusive people ask me about it. I guess they want to know why I tried to slash my wrist cause in all fairness, it does look like that. I am normally a very cheerful person and so perhaps the possibility of my darkest hour leaving a mark on my hand intrigues them. I am a lover of drama and so I admit it, I feed their curiosity too. I make dramatic sighs, droop my shoulders and avoid eye contact. I smile and refuse to answer their question and that drives them nuts. 

The scar has got me many things from hugs, to knowing smiles, to understanding glances and at one time, even a free muffin. People assume they know how I got the scar and I thrive on their assumptions. If I am in a particularly dramatic mood, I even take the game further and embellish it to my liking. On somedays the scar is the result of a heartbreaking break up. On others, I am the disappointed in myself. I’ve however, never once said that I’ve slashed my wrist. Never. Not once. Yet everytime people assume I did.

I’ve wondered how they’d react if they found out how I got the scar. The true story. That it is the result of a freak accident when a 13 year old tried to throw out a candy wrapper after having sneaked it from under the watchful eyes of her sister who was on candy watch (Don’t ask me why but I don’t seem to remember by she was not sharing that bowl of candies). So engrossed was she in keeping an eye out for her sister that she completely missed noticing that the glass window was not open. She pushed her hands through the space with enough force to propel the candy wrapper to the bin on the outside and was instead met with glass that cut into her hand and gave her that scar.

It is a simple, childhood story yet to this date it provides me with so much drama. Not that I’m complaining cause this story would most definitely not get me a free muffin.

 

 

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22

Ghost of Birthday Past – The First Day!

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Today I turned a year older, not much wiser, but definitely older. I entered a new decade. I hit the big 30. Am I where I thought I would be? No! Did I accomplish everything I thought I would? No! Yet, am I happy? YES! As I sat eating cake for breakfast, I had one of those moments when the past flashed before my eyes. I could see each of my birthdays pretty darn clearly. How they were celebrated, who were with me and to some extent even the resolutions I made. Some of the made me giggle, some made me happy and some sad. So today I thought I’d write about my past birthdays, starting with the one almost 30 years ago.

Let’s start at the very beginning. A very good place to start. (How many of you know where I took those lines from?) The first day ever, 28 of August 1983. Obviously this is only a dramatic recreation of the events of the day seeing as I was slightly occupied with entering new world and all to actually remember anything.However most of the childbirths in my family follow the same blueprint, the one I will be explaining to you.

Mine is an extremely close knit family. Something happens and everyone in the family comes over from wherever to be a part of it. There is no extended family. Everyone is immediate family. On of the most celebrated moments in our family is the birth of a new one. I’ve attended enough child birth hooplas to know what must have transpired when I was born. Technically the festivities start from the moment you pee on a stick and see two lines. From then on its mayhem. Every food ever to have been made in the world gets made and presented to the pregnant person. Any hopes of not putting on weight and having a healthy diet is bundled up and thrown into the ocean. The family singularly unites to fatten the pregnant woman. They will have it no other way. Little children, ogling at the delicacies, are shooed away lest their desire for the food cast an evil eye on the pregnant woman. I know, I’ve both been shooed away and have had kids shooed away from my food. Though its infinitely more fun when you are the pregnant woman than the kid.

Anyways, the family usually unites when the woman starts showing signs of labour. I remember my Mum telling me she had a fairly long labour and so I’m guessing the family gathered as soon as my Mum felt her first moment of discomfort. From then on, while Mum lay in the labour room, there must have been pre-birth celebrations outside the labour room. Food would be brought to the hospital and distributed. Everyone decides to camp outside the room to hear the good news as soon as it happens. There are singing and dancing shows by the kids in the group and intense gossping amongst the elders. Everything from wars, to suspicious looking new neighbours are discussed. Everything goes on until, the nurse pops out and announces the birth of the child, which in this case is my birth. There, I have officially been born. The news is usually received with shouts and cries of joy. Everyone hugs each other, some people squeeze hands, kids are jumping with joy and the nurse who announced the birth is gifted money. Everyone tries to outdo the other. If an uncle give 50 bucks, the other gives 100 and another gives 200. Everyone is in a mad dash to show that they are the happiest. Don’t ask me why? I was only just born!

In the midst of all this, someone rushes to pass the good news to the ‘Dad’. Usually, the Dad does not partake in the discussions and gossip outside the labour room. He  stands away from the crowd, probably by a nice long hall way that he can pace. Even non smoking Dads turn smokers just for the duration of the labour. You could have a token friend or a cousin about the same age as you for company. There will be a nervous energy in the air and he will compulsorily pace the hall. I mean, what kind of husband does not smoke or pace the halls when his wife is in labour? Its a must. It is in the giant rule book of childbirth.

Once the news of the kid has been announced to the Dad, he can then proceed to stop pacing around. He can now look sheepish or smug and come join the big gang where he will be thumped on the back. Someone will produce a packet of traditional sweets from somewhere and then suddenly everyone is clamoring to feed the Dad. He gets enough sugar pumped into his veins. Adequately satisfied that the Dad has been force fed, the family then channels their collective energy towards the next nurse who happens to pop out of the labour room. When she does, she will be bombarded with questions about the child and the Mum. their well being, who the baby looks like, the baby’s weight and so on to which the nurse is now obliged to answer cause one from their tribe has been adequately compensated.

The kids meanwhile jump into action. Taking advantage of the all around happiness, they target the Dad and approach him for chocolates. It is another of the traditions to feed the entire hospital, well atleast the entire maternity ward, chocolates to celebrate the birth. So off the Dad and the army of kids go to buy chocolates. This however is a trap. It never stops with chocolates, the army will attack and won’t stop unless a loot of ice cream, juices, sodas, candy and chocolate has been collected. The Dad still appears largely happy, though considerably poorer financially.

Usually, by the time Dad returns from the shopping spree, the Mum and the Bub have been brought to the room. Dad avoids eye contact with Mum and sneaks glances at the baby who is now being passed around the room. The baby, for atleast the next 72 hours will be rocked to sleep and just generally held by the assortment of doting grandmothers, aunts, cousins etc thereby effectively ruining it for the Mum. Having tasted the first dose of familial spoiling, the baby hence forth rejects the bed and demands to be held all the time.

Thankfully, because of the absence of Facebook, no pictures were posted or status messages uploaded. Kids were born into the hands of the parents and not on Facebook. No messages were sent on Whatsapp and no one Facetimed with anyone. Everybody where either there or would come visit in the next 24-48 hours.

So there, I’m pretty sure this is what happened when I was born too. Since then, I’ve attended so many childbirths in varying capacities..as the enthusiastic candy distributor, to the bored teenager, to the gossiping cousin and then more recently the Mum in labour. Except for the advancement of technology, everything else is almost still the same.

Pic credits: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Birthday_candles.jpg

15

My bathroom and I.

During the bus journey home, on my first break from college, i was super nervous. I knew I had missed home terribly and I was very eager to meet everyone. I was afraid seeing my Mum, Dad, sisters and my niece and nephews would reduce me to a hysterical mess. I did not know what it was about home I missed, yet I knew I missed something deeply.

I had not realised the extent to which I was attached to my family and home. Mum and Dad has paid me a visit once, yet that feeling of emptiness remained. I guess I was yearning to go home. Not once did I think I would ever be feeling like this, not once during the heated debates and arguments about going to a college far away from home. My sisters had tried to convince me about considering a college close home, first lovingly using emotional blackmail and then heatedly using logic and reasoning but I had stood my ground. I had picked the college I wanted and I was going there, come hell or high water. I knew if I came home and cried, everyone would nod knowingly and I knew I couldn’t take that, not after the drama I had pulled at home to go to this college.

As I reached home, I saw that my entire family was there to welcome me. Overjoyed to see them all, yet bracing myself I went into the house. I was ready for the onslaught of tears as I hugged my family, but nothing happened. I was just overjoyed, the tears, the hysteria, the breakdown did not happen. As we sat down for dinner I entertained everyone with my college stories. There were loads of laughter and teasing but no regretful tears. I presumed I had misjudged my excitement to meet my family for the tearful longing.

As I said goodnight to my family and retreated to my old room, I was already wording a blog post in my head about how I had stupidly misjudged my emotion. I walked into my room, looked around and went into the bathroom for a quick wash and that’s where it happened. I broke down. I sobbed hysterically. I could not stem my tears. I now understood what it was that I was yearning for. I now understood the vacuum that even a visit from my folks could not fill. I had missed my bedroom and bathroom, I had missed my territory. Mum and Dad and my family, I knew I could count on, but my bathroom and the luxuries that came with it, were fleeting. My college bathroom was a mess. Not only did I have to share it with others, I could not spend infinity in it. I could not talk to the mirror, I could not read a book on the potty, I could not enact scenes from popular movies in the shower. My sacred space up until then, was not my own at college. Laying down on my bed, only made matters worse. Instead of the hard lump of a mattress I had gotten used to in the past couple of months, what greeted me was the familiar softness of home. Everything was clean and mine. The remainder of my night was spent crying over how awesome my room and bathroom was.

Today as my nephews and nieces go off to college and hostel, I always eagerly wait for their first break home, just to see their reaction, just to see if they missed their bathrooms as much as I did. Turns out the bathroom has many forms. My nephew who just came home last night said, the balcony in his apartment on the 12 floor, that overlooks the entire city caused a lump in this throat. Another friend cannot stop gushing over how emotional her reading nook made her. Still another cousin tells me, a step in his backyard where he lounges with his morning coffee, turned him into a crying lil school girl. Guess we all have our bathrooms, only it is not always the bathroom.

10

The Hungry Beggar

 

imagination

Indian mothers never save their kid an after school snack, they save them after school meals. Growing up, I always had 4 meals. There was breakfast, which was most often gobbled in a hurry to attempt to catch the school bus, the school lunch which was spent in mindless gossip where more hands than mine dipped into my lunch box, the home lunch which was the after school meal my Mum would save me and then the big family dinner.

Being a lover of food, I enjoyed all my meals immensely but it was only the after school meal that bored me out of my wits. Mum would always save me a big bowl of rice and veggies and curries and sometimes some fried fish too. It was supposed to feed my growing body. My horizontally growing body, that is. The cliche that Mums are blind to the shortcomings in their offsprings is true and couldn’t be truer in my case for at a time when I could do with the skipping of a meal or two, I was being fed an extra meal of carbs with a little bit of veggies thrown in.  Being the good daughter that I was, I ate it all without so much as a whimper. Just kidding, I loved it. I still do. Carbs and saturated fats speak to me at a personal level.

Anyways, this one meal was the one I dreaded the most cause it was the only time a meal seemed like a chore to me. Sitting down at the dining table on my own with a mount of rice to conquer was a daunting task. It was less to do with the food and more about the lack of company. I was bored and that boredom was affecting my affection towards the meal.

One day I was mindlessly trudging through my meal when a King in all his glory appeared before me. When I say King, please get the Royal Family’s image out of your head. I am talking about the Indian kings, in all their finery and grandeur. Decked in ornaments from head to toe as if to reinstate his kingship. He smiled at me and said “Eat”. I looked down and saw that I had transformed and so had my settings. I was sitting on the floor of what appeared to be the walkway to the king’s castle. My clothes were in tatters and I was covered in filth. I had evidently not seen the inside of a shower in ages. I suddenly felt ‘hungry’ very very hungry which was strange cause I had rarely felt this emotion until now. I looked in front of me and there sat the most beautiful bowl of rice, veggies, curry and some fried fish. Never had that bowl of food looked as appetizing as it did now. I looked up at the King who was smiling at me and coaxing me to eat. The word had hardly left his mouth when I began to stuff my face. It was pandemonium. More rice was flying off my face than finding its way into my tummy. I literally had a rice facial. The need to eat it all at that very instant was so strong that it became the sole purpose of my existence. The more I ate, the more I wanted to eat. My vision got cloudy as a bits of curried rice stuck to my eyelashes. I still had food left in my bowl but I’d been hungry for so long that I went after the food sprayed around the bowl. I was eating off the street, lest a stray dog gets it before me. I ate it all with an urgency I had never felt in my 10 years of existence and I felt full. I looked up to thank the generous King but he had long since disappeared. I looked around and I was back in my uniform, back at my dining table. I was looked messy with curry stains on my shirt and rice in my hair. The dining table looked like a war field and an overturned glass of water only added to the effect. It was easily the best meal I had ever had.

Soon this turned into a routine. On somedays, I was a social activist, protesting against some injustice by fasting unto death and then being force fed by the military cause the government could not let me win and on others I was a freak show, a girl who could eat forever. My favourite role however has been that of the hungry beggar, a role I’ve reprised on countless occasions.

Years later I still find myself breaking into impromptu scenarios, be it while waiting for a taxi or while alone in the kitchen. It just makes life a little more dramatic.

Pic courtesy: ichabilal.wordpress.com